The United Arab Emirates (UAE) on August 1, 2018 launched a landmark three-month visa amnesty programme, which will benefit hundreds of illegal foreign workers, including Indians, who are overstaying their permits in the gulf nation.
The programme will allow the workers to leave the country without paying penalty and it will also give them six months to find a job.
• Under the visa programme, an amnesty period will be provided to the visa violators till October 31, 2018.
• The overstaying residents will have the option of exiting the country without paying the fine or facing punishment or to rectify their status by getting a new sponsored and valid visa.
• According to Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA), the authority responsible for entry and residence of foreigners in the UAE, visa violators before August 1, 2018 will be able to rectify their status legally during the amnesty period.
• The foreign workers will also be given six-month temporary visa to stay in the country and look for work.
• Workers from war-torn countries such as Syria and Yemen would qualify for a one-year residence visa without restrictions.
• Those who have been blacklisted or those who have legal cases against them will, however, not be eligible for amnesty.
• Centres have been set up around the country to process applicants, with consular officials from many countries also on hand to help deal with passport and other issues.
• This is the third such amnesty announced by the UAE government in just over a decade.
• Overall, it's the fifth general amnesty since 1996 and more than 60,000 people took advantage of the last one, in 2013.
Thousands of people, primarily labourers from countries such as India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nepal and the Philippines, are expected to benefit from the scheme.
UAE is home to around 2.8 million Indian expatriates, the largest expatriate community in the country.
In fact, out of UAE's total estimated population of more than 9 million people, only about 12 percent are Emiratis.
Currently, foreigners who overstay their visas in the nation are fined between 25 to 100 dirhams (about $7 to $27) a day, depending on the type of visa, and aren't allowed to leave the country until the fines are paid.
As the fines mount over months and years, their prospects of payment become slimmer and slimmer, leaving the workers with no other option but to further overstay their visas. Those stuck are often forced to take up illegal jobs.
As per official records, more than 25,000 people overstayed their residency visas in 2017 alone.
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